LOS ANGELES -- It will be a homecoming of sorts for several USC players on Thursday when the Trojans take on Cal. Among the Northern California natives on the Trojans' roster are WR Brandon Carswell (Milpitas), DL Christian Tupou (Sacramento), RB Amir Carlisle (Santa Clara) and DL Kevin Greene (Oakland).
This will be Tupou's third time playing against Cal on the road. The senior captain will be looking to play a big role in slowing down the Golden Bears' running attack, led by Isi Sofele.
"Sofele is a great back," Tupou said. "He's explosive and powerful, with a low center of gravity."
It will also be his chance to show the home team what it missed out on, as the Golden Bears never offered Tupou a scholarship, despite the fact that he played at Grant HS, which has sent multiple players to Cal.
"I'll be playing with a chip on my shoulder because I wasn't offered by them," Tupou said. "Two of my high school buddies are over there too, Puka Lopa and Vei Moala, so I look forward to playing against them. I just want to go all-out and represent. Even though I live in So Cal I'm still a Nor Cal guy."
It also will be the final opportunity for Carswell to play in front of local family and friends, something that's always exciting.
"Every time that we play against Cal or Stanford and I'm back home, I start getting jitters," Carswell said. "I want to perform well in front of everybody. I have almost 30 family members and friends that are trying to come to the game. I tried to get more tickets, but everybody seems to be using their tickets, so I kind of had to tell everybody they had to buy their own."
Carlisle will make his first collegiate appearance in the Bay Area, but his parents will not be in the stands. His father, Duane, is the Director of Sports Performance at Purdue and will be watching the game on television.
"I'll have lots of friends there," Carlisle said. "It's a great honor to go home and show what USC football is all about. Even if I don't play, it will be exciting to be there."
Wiley working hard
Bye weeks are often a chance for players who have not received a ton of playing time to impress the coaches in the hopes of seeing the field. One player who did that during the Trojans' bye week was cornerback Isiah Wiley, a junior college transfer from Arizona Western College.
Wiley originally had been scheduled to arrive at USC last spring to take part in spring practice, but a transcript problem delayed his arrival until fall camp. That delay set back his learning curve, and Wiley had a slow adjustment to the Trojans' system in preseason practices. However, he has been showing the kind of ball skills lately that attracted the USC coaches in the first place.
"Isiah really popped out during the bye week," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "It really hurt his development to not be here for the spring, but he's starting to make some plays. Hopefully he will be able to contribute."
It's unclear whether the Trojans will have cornerback Torin Harris for this game, as he has been out of action since suffering a shoulder injury against Arizona State on Sept. 24. Redshirt freshman Anthony Brown was in the starting lineup for the Arizona game, and if Harris is unable to go Thursday, Wiley could see some action as well.
Dueling WR duos
There was some commotion among USC fans when an ESPN analyst referred to the Cal wide receiver duo of Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen as "the best in the Pac-12 Conference." After all, USC has a pretty powerful starting combination of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
A quick check of the stats shows Jones and Allen with a combined total of 68 catches for 1,109 yards and seven touchdowns, while Woods and Lee have totaled 76 catches for 1,070 and nine touchdowns.
"It will be a huge challenge to face those guys," Kiffin said. "Allen can make every play, and Jones has been productive for a long time. Who is the best duo? You have to go out there and prove it."
Woods and Allen rank 1-2 in the conference in both catches and receiving yards.
Cal head coach Jeff Tedford established a sterling reputation early in his career by working with quarterbacks such as Super Bowl winners Trent Dilfer and Aaron Rodgers. Lately the Cal quarterback position has featured such names as Joe Ayoob, Kevin Riley and, most recently, Zach Maynard. None of those quarterbacks are going to match USC's recent quarterback lineage of Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez, but Maynard, a transfer from the University of Buffalo, has thrown for at least 200 yards and a touchdown in each of his five starts this season.
Speaking of quarterbacks, USC redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins returned to the practice field this week after being out since fall camp with an injured thumb. Scroggins expects to return to full-time action next week for the Notre Dame game.
Garry Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC.com and has covered the Trojans since 1997. He can be reached at email@example.com.